Light shines into my charred room and illuminates one tiny patch of unblemished floor. Somewhere, in the background, a piano plays Rachminoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” – both melancholy and sanguine. All those enchanting chords bounce off the barren four-walled space and remind me something is waiting for me outside. Hope. I touch the light. I feel it’s warmth on my hand. I let a smile spread across my face.
Someone, somewhere, believes in me. I need to believe in me too.
A cloud covers the light, and I’m plunged back into darkness. Stepping into the corner, I touch the walls. Fire has scorched the room. My fire. Anger over my inadequacy will never diminish. I’m in a prison of my own making. The music swells but is swallowed by blackened wood. Faint traces of “Stairway to Heaven” reach my ears and fade.
I will never amount to anything.
I crouch into the corner and tremble. When will this end? I think of all the times I have tried to escape my fate. I am reminded of all the times I failed in some way. I have spent the better part of my adult life being told “You’re so smart. You’ll go places.”, but that hasn’t happened yet. Am I meant to be a permanent reminder to all? You can work hard and do everything in your power to get ahead in life but “in the end, it is about who you know and not what you know.” I have had opportunities to achieve my dreams, and every time I have lost. I’m a failure. Maybe it’s time to give up on moving up?
The clouds fade away, and the light returns. It shines into the other three edges of my self-made cell and touches my toes, my fingers. The tempo changes. It’s a full orchestra – it’s a choir – it’s Mozart’s “Requiem in D Minor”.
“You got the job!” I hear over the throng.
Success. I have finally reached the success I’ve craved.
The warmth tries to envelope me, but I inch further into the adjoining walls. I stand rigid as the light creeps closer. It tries to cover me whole, but I won’t let it, shrinking further into that dark recess. Why is my fear and anger of inadequacy still here? Why does it dominate so? I want to be happy.
I was raised in a very conservative home. My parents were Independent Fundamentalist Baptists (not to be confused with Southern Baptists- that’s blasphemous). Basically what that meant is that they believe(d) in the inerrancy of the Bible and the literal interpretation of it. In our home, if we had a Bible, it was a King James Version. We had a thick Concordance that gave a more literal translation from the Greek, Hebrew, etc of the originally-written text. In other words, we were a version of the Duggar family and other “radicals.”
We were also Republicans. Not a big stretch given we lived in a small east Texas town, but there you have it.
I identified as a Republican and an Independent Baptist almost all my life. I’d stand up straight, shoulders back, chest out, and declare I was conservative. I’d be damned if people would think less of me for it, too.
Conservative has such a negative connotation now. Sometimes I wonder why and then I’m reminded of what the world sees from “fundamentalists,” Tea Party, and Christians.
Federal election is coming up in Australia this weekend, and as it is my first time voting in a major election, I realized I had no idea which political side I identified with most. So a few months ago, I sat down and took a test, then another and another to confirm my findings.
Despite being raised and embracing my conservatism (I thought), I did not hold the same ideals anymore. For every pro-death sentence (yes, I’m one of those people), I was pro-choice, pro-equality, pro-immigration, pro-euthanasia. I was basically pro-human rights.
I have since stripped myself of that “conservative” tag. At best, I’m middle-ground. At worst, I’m a full-fledged liberal or Democrat.
So what’s the point?
Well, it has me wondering. What else did I take away from my childhood and embraced as my own but actually isn’t? My IFB background lacks. I don’t actively go to church or believe in the inerrancy of the Bible anymore either. In fact, aside from living my life with tolerance, kindness, and the nightly prayer, I am the most “lukewarm Christian” I can be. I will always identify as Christian, but I can’t claim a denomination nor do I really see any reason to.
I also realized that the choices I made in all of the tests contradict my upbringing. My father used to complain about the illegal immigrants standing at a street corner “taking jobs” from “hardworking Americans.” Or how when drunk, he would say the most abhorrent things about gays and “lady men,” despite being nice to all of my friends that were. I won’t repeat the words. Needless to say, he was racist, and for a long time I probably was too.
As we all grow up, we start to realize our views are not the same as our parent’s. We take on our own views, and in a lot of occasions, they are completely opposite. Even now, I avoid conversations with my mother about politics, marriage equality, and Christianity. Mostly because the debate becomes quite heated, and there’s one thing I did take and keep from my childhood. My stubbornness. :O
So how have your views differed from those of your parents? I bet you’ll have more than you know. 🙂
With only two or three hours of sleep, I am so wired this morning. It’s going to be a big day. My belongings are scattered across the floor in varying shapes, sizes and weight classes. The heaviest item is a leather-bound, book with gold trimmed pages titled “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.” I muse for a moment on how I hadn’t read half the book, and I am really regretting it now.
70lb is the limit for each suitcase. To be safe, I should really go for 65lb. That’s really not much for all your worldly possessions. Some things will have to stay. There’s always the option to ship the rest.
It hardly feels real. This is really happening.
Questing in Thousand Needles, Tenoridus, the great tauren shaman, was losing life and pride in the harpy cave. His call for help was heard, and another shaman, an orc by the name of Graxkil, came to assist. The two chatted for a time until Graxkil offered the tauren to join his guild. Tenoridus happily accepted.
My bags are packed and in the car. I don’t need to be at the airport until 6pm, but with rush hour traffic, the Dallas streets will be packed. We leave at 4pm, hitting traffic before we even enter LBJ Freeway.
The car ride is a long and silent one. Mom doesn’t want me to go, and Dad is mad at me for making Mom cry. I won’t mention anything of what life will be like for me there.
Graxkil and Tenoridus teamed up weekly with three others to face the threats poised against Azeroth. Grax led the group while Ten healed them. They made a great team, and over the coming months, many foes were vanquished by them. They were all getting closer to each other, especially Grax and Ten.
We’re at the airport now. The moment is finally here to say goodbye. The words fall to ash in my mouth before they are even uttered.
I can’t say it. I won’t say it.
I hug my mother and then Daddy. I refuse to let emotion to take me. I blink my eyes to stop the tears, grab my things and walk into the security line. Just before I’m up to the gate, I turn around and look at my family. We wave at each other like we’ll see each other again soon. I refuse to think that it might be the last time I see any of them.
The Timbermaw Hold faction called for help in Winterspring. To become revered with these tiny humanoids, Graxkil was tasked with killing thousands of Winterspring furbolgs to retrieve their beads. It’s a task that will take at least a month, but Tenoridus was bored. So they join forces to make the grinding just that much easier.
They talked together during hours of combat. About everything, and their friendship turned to kinship over time. The nightly rep grind became a reason to get up every day.
It is my first plane ride. I’m so very nervous, but I’m also excited. I just think about the end goal.
The plane takes off, and my thoughts soar with it. I can’t wait to get on the connecting flight so I can sleep. My twenty hour journey is finally beginning.
Another guild has set their sights on Tenoridus, proving himself worthy of their group. They aimed to bring him to their side. He wrestled with the decision to join them and tried hard to find a way to make a compromise, but ultimately, the call pulled him away. He was ready to see fame and glory, and the other guild would be able to give that to him.
Graxkil was stunned and hurt. This act of betrayal from the one he held dearest wrecked him. He turned his back on his guild and vowed to never return, disappearing from Azeroth. Tenoridus was devastated when he heard the news.
I’m at Los Angeles an hour and a half late, and now I’m panicking because I have less than thirty minutes to get to the international terminal, get signed in and get on the plane. I race through the crowded airport and worry that I will miss my flight or that my luggage won’t make it to the plane in time.
Graxkil sent Tenoridus a message. He has realised that the nightly chats had meant more than either had realised. The separation showed them something they had kept quiet even to themselves. He asked Tenoridus to come back to his guild and to him.
Graxkil was the first to say the words. Those three little words were frightening at first, because with them came the realisation that they shared the same feelings. But also because, in reality, there was an ocean and half a world between them.
I barely sleep on the flight. I try, but I’m too restless. I think about how I got here, and the future I will have with Wayne. I think about how we know each other better than many married couples do, and that talking on Skype for hours every night for almost 9 months while we played World of Warcraft together meant our relationship was built on communication. We have made the long distance relationship work. There is zero doubt in my mind of that.
I watch every movie available on the plane, and finally fall asleep around 5am.
“The time is 6:03am on May first,” the pilot says, as we start our descent into Brisbane International Airport.
The morning light shines through the terminal, and I see Wayne waiting for me, flowers in his hand.
I’m finally meeting the man of my dreams. Only twelve months after my Tenoridus met his Graxkil.
Our first hug is a relief. I whisper the words to him, and for the first time in my life, I feel whole.
I’m not going to lie to you… I’m a liar. Probably not a pathological liar, though. Maybe.
Sometimes I say little white lies like I’m fine when I’m not or saying you’re not annoying me when you are. Sometimes they’re big lies like how I got that dent in my car.
Some lies I don’t even realize I’m saying one until it’s too late. Some lies I convince myself are truth.
I even lie to myself that I’m not a liar. Everyone lies, right?
Wrong… Not everyone feels inclined to lie about everything. But I do. Even when it doesn’t actually benefit me any more or less.
According to studies, this is a common issue for people who lived in a broken home. But wait! My home wasn’t broken. I had two parents, and there was never a threat of divorce looming over us. We never had a split, because it never would happen. We weren’t broken.
Only broken homes aren’t just about broken marriages, it includes dysfunctional and/or abusive families.
The greatest lie I told myself was that my home wasn’t broken. It took me years to accept it as truth. Dad never laid a hand on me. In fact, he avoided touching altogether. Instead he threw words like worthless or stupid at me when the drink took him. He never beat my mother, but he did throw dishes against the wall to get his point across. We weren’t broken, though. Only slightly scratched. Nothing a bit of calamine lotion wouldn’t help fix.
What I don’t understand are the lies that just fall out of my mouth. I don’t even have to think about them anymore. My lies have never hurt anyone but myself. Once told, though, I’ve already convinced myself of their validity. Or I convince myself why it was correct, enhancing the lie if it ever comes up again.
Most lies to be convincing have to have an ounce of truth in them. Like how I met Dimeback Darrell at my old job in Dallas. He frequented the restaurant I worked at. Only I worked in the cash and security office and I saw him through the security cameras. I went downstairs to see him closer, but I never approached him. I was too scared. But I met Dimeback Darrell less than a year before he died. Only he never met me…
Some lies are to protect me or prevent an awkward conversation from starting. I lied at my first job interview after I became an Australian permanent resident. The truth that I had met my partner over a video game may not have made me the best job applicant. It shows me as impulsive. Instead, I just told a fib that he was stationed in Dallas for a while and we met then. A significant lie, but not one that was unbelievable, either. In fact, the truth was far stranger than fiction.
So now that I have revealed something very personal about myself, I have another confession to make.
This was me five years ago. It took me years to fix this habit. I didn’t even realize it was a problem until I moved to Australia. Then when I started to pick up on it, I noted how the lie came about. Why did I really need to say it?
Some lies are still okay. You really do look nice in that dress. You aren’t annoying me. I am fine.
But my life isn’t ruled by a constant lie anymore. And that is so liberating.
Back in 2007, I received my permanent residency, and not long after, a little electronics company gave me my first full-time job in Australia, as an assistant manager. I had attempted to get jobs within an office or business space outside of retail, since I had finished a Diploma of Business and had already spent my entire career in hospitality (Cinemark & Dave & Busters, represent!), but they were the first to give me an interview.
It was an iconic Australian electronics retailer by the name of Dick Smith Electronics, and I remember the interview like it was yesterday, completed at their Buranda QLD Head Office with two fantastic recruiters that were warm and welcoming. I repeated on more than one occasion that I would “lead by example” between bouts of fidgeting and hand-examining. A week later, they offered me the job. To which point, my dad reminded me that I was totally going to be working for dick…
On my first day, I remember having a ton of kind people that were incredibly patient with me, as I tried to learn where everything was and one man who yelled at me when I called aluminium, “Alum-eh-num” instead of “Aloo-Mih-nee-um.”
I remember on that first day watching the store manager walk around the store, pointing out issues with merchandising and the lot and then shrinking away to the back office. When a staff member would decline a refund based on policy, the store manager would be called out, and he would always send the customer home with the money instead of the item.
It seemed a common theme that I started to see throughout the entire store. This notion of us and them, and “you’re wrong, I’m right.” To me, it didn’t work, and I saw it in the eyes of the employees. They hated it.
So on the days when I ran the store, I started to stand my ground on what I thought we should and shouldn’t do. I spent more time on the floor than in the back office. I supported my team by agreeing with them on a stance instead of contradicting their decisions.
For a while, I think I made them enjoy their jobs, but I could be wrong. Six months later, I was running the store. For better or worse.
I worked for Dick Smith for over 2 years. From August 2007 to February 2010. In that time, I ensured our health and safety ratings were always top and our audit scores were among the highest in the company. But also in that time, I did not make budget once.
I wasn’t a salesperson; I never was. But that’s what the company wanted out of its staff, and I could never quite get on-board with the concept.
When I started in 2007, we had, on average, six staff per shift. Two managers – one able to work solely on the administrative end, one able to work on performance. Targets were high, because less than a year before it had been the only store in the area. By the time I started, there were three stores, within 5-10min driving distance of each other. So business was slow. The company looked at this and decided the best thing would to be cut our wages. Over the course of a few months, the staffing lowered to four a shift including the managers.
When I left, I was lucky if I could afford to have two per shift.
And that’s what happens when a company starts to cut costs. The insanity of it is that they require the same targets to be made with two people as with six. Our stock pricing didn’t change either, despite the big boys in electronics continuously cutting prices by sometimes half.
I was two years into my time there when I started to worry about how the company could afford to keep going on its current trajectory. Too many stores were being opened, and then they had decided to rebrand the company to the tune of $5mil or $50mil, if I remember correctly. It was a courageous effort to try and improve sales and bring people back into stores, but it wouldn’t last.
I left when I realized time had made me exactly what I loathed. I told staff what to do, rather than lead by example. I sat in the office trying to maintain some level of operational superiority. And I contradicted what they said about refunding, etc.
Where had the time gone? How had I become this person?
The answer was simple. It was lost. I no longer had the staff to do the admin properly, so I was always playing catch-up in the office. I had received one too many phone calls from Head Office overriding a decision I had made that forced me to ring the customer to tell them we would be providing them that refund I refused based on company policy (trust me, swallowing pride is not fun, when you know you’re in the right). So to prevent that horrible taste of disgust, I became complicit.
It was then I decided it was time to move on.
Move on, I did.
Unfortunately, it seems that happened with most people. Less than two years later the company was sold, then floated another two years after that. And now all stores will be closed before mid-year. My heart breaks for all those that stayed after I left. Some worked for 10+ years. Careers, I used to call them.
I remember a family member telling me that leaving the company was the stupidest decision I had made, but I think it was the smartest. Not just because the writing really was on the wall for it, but because I valued my soul, and I could no longer see it being eaten away by complacency.